The Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, which follows the now-defunct Farmington Canal, runs north from Yale University in New Haven to its current terminus in Westfield, Massachusetts. When completed, the trail will stretch 80 miles from New Haven, up through the western portion of Metro Hartford all the way to Northampton, Massachusetts.
Currently the trail has two major gaps in Connecticut: a 4.7-mile gap in Cheshire and a larger 9.1-mile gap between Southington and Plainville up to the next trailhead in Farmington. Here, the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail begins again and extends north over the Massachusetts border for 27 miles to Westfield. There’s also a connection to the Farmington River Trail, which extends north to Canton and into Simsbury — Connecticut’s only Silver-level Bicycle-Friendly Community.
While the State Department of Transportation and the Town of Cheshire are working to close the 4.7-mile gap, the 9.1-mile gap, the bulk of which lies in Plainville, has proven more difficult because there are active freight lines in the corridor on which they’re seeking to locate the trail.
In the meantime, cyclists are still putting the existing trail segments to good use. New Haven Department of Transportation staff and cycling advocates rode the southern portion of the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail (and the new multi-use path that runs alongside part of the new CTfastrak busway) this week on their way to lobby legislators in Hartford to pass SB502, also known as the “bike bill.”
The Capitol Region Council of Governments, along with the Town of Plainville and the Farmington Valley Trails Council, recently embarked on a $500,000 planning study aimed at closing that 9.1-mile gap. One option they’re likely to consider is having the trail share a right of way with local roads. While this approach might not be a scenic as an off-road trail, it could be equally as safe; protected bike lanes and two-way cycle tracks will soon be allowed under state law, assuming Governor Malloy signs the bike bill.